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Zimbabwe anti-Mugabe activist speaks out after beating

Zimbabwean anti-government activist Sylvanos Mudzvova talks with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (C) of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) at a hospital in the capital Harare © AFP / Jekesai Njikizana

Harare, Zimbabwe, Sep 17 – Lying uncomfortably in his hospital bed, Zimbabwean anti-government activist Silvanos Mudzvova details the long list of injuries he suffered this week when abducted, beaten up and left for dead.

He has whip-marks, bruises and blisters on his back and feet, burns on his thigh, and wounds left by electric shocks applied to his toes and genitals. He was also injected with an unknown substance.

An activist with the Tajamuka protest group, Mudzvova winced in pain as he vowed to keep protesting against President Robert Mugabe and told of how he was dragged from his home on Tuesday night.

Mudzvova, 38, who is also an actor and playwright, is part of a growing opposition movement pushing for Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party to be ousted after 36 years in power.

Zimbabwean anti-government activist Sylvanos Mudzvova vowed to keep protesting against President Robert Mugabe after he was abducted, beaten up and left for dead © AFP / Jekesai Njikizana

“At this moment we cannot put the brakes on. We actually need to make sure ZANU-PF and Mugabe go,” said Mudzvova, who is married with three children.

“As the Tajamuka movement, we believe we have a bright future. This is the only way we can determine our future and the future of the kids we have.”

Tajamuka (“We are rising up”) has emerged as one of the leading protest groups in a wave of anti-Mugabe protests that have often been violently suppressed by police.

Mudzvova said six unidentified armed men barged into his home by breaking down the door, covered him with a sack and bundled him into a truck.

“The children were woken up by the violent knocking on the door They were terrified,” he said.

His abductors drove him into the bush outside the capital and began a brutal session of torture.

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– Further protests –

Demonstrators from the Zimbabwean pressure group Tajamuka protest next to a burning tyre in Makokoba Township, Bulawayo © AFP/File / Zinyange Auntony

“They started asking me questions like where funding for Tajamuka was coming from, who was providing military training and where I was trained,” he said.

“Whenever they asked me questions and I gave them answers they thought were not satisfactory, that’s when they would beat me up.

“Before they left, they injected me with a substance that has not been identified.”

Mudzvova, who was found by local villagers the next day and taken to hospital, was also beaten up by assailants in 2013 in an attack that left him with a limp.

Before that assault, he had written and staged a play about Zimbabweans planning their own Arab Spring uprising.

Early this year, he was detained by police after staging a one-man play outside parliament about state corruption and shady goings-on in diamond mining.

Now, to avoid arrest, Mudzvova performs what he calls “hit-and-run” shows in public places without any warning.

Zimbabwe soldiers and civil servants have regularly been paid late this year, heightening pressure on 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe © AFP/File / Wilfred Kajese

“It is not the body that has the ideas,” he said, describing why the beatings are futile.

“We have got university degrees but we cannot find jobs. We have to push a little extra to achieve what we are (actually) calling for.”

Police have banned protests in Harare for a month but further protests are planned, raising fears of violent clashes between demonstrators, pro-Mugabe youths and security forces.

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Soldiers and civil servants have regularly been paid late this year, heightening pressure on the 92-year-old president, who is increasingly frail.

Mudzvova said he would report the attack to police when he gets out of hospital.

“I will leave it to them whether to investigate or sit on the report, but there will come a time when the truth of the people who are behind all this will come out.”

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